Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 10:14 AM
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 8:11 PM
Thursday, May 6, 2010
What is, perhaps, most fascinating about Joseph Merrick's, aka John Merrick aka The Elephant Man, story is his rise to popularity and fame due to his grotesque, dare I say carnivalesque, body. The fascination that surrounded Merrick, while is in part due to sincere pity and the longing to help the helpless, was for the most part society's fascination for the different, the Other. What is it that is most fascinating about a man who could barely speak, whose body so distorted it is hard to determine where limbs and joints come together? Is it that Merrick's body symbolizes all the wrong that could happen to a man, reminding an individual of his luck? That is, Merrick's body represents man's greatest fear; a fear that roots from man's inherent narcissism and vanity.
Merrick as symbol may be interpreted in many ways. For Dr. Treves, Merrick symbolizes potentiality. Treves sees Merrick as the manifestation of what science could be and could do. As a mystery to solve, Merrick serves Treves' curiosity and the doctor's fascination roots from his own need to prove the extent of scientific prowess. Though he becomes Merrick's friend, Treves' sincerity may be questionable. Does the good doctor befriend Merrick to save him from an abominable situation or does he save Merrick to serve his own ego?
One of Merrick's greatest advocate is the Princess of Wales, a powerful person who seemingly enlightens society about notions of charity and caring for fellowmen. She is responsible for putting Merrick in the limelight, bringing attention to his situation and to the cause of helping the most helpless. Yet, is her fascination for Merrick really only rooted in pathos, motivated by the goodness of her heart? The same question could be asked of the high society that welcomes Merrick into their arms.
Society's fascination for Otherness, for the Different Merrick, is exemplified in the scene where Merrick, seated with the highest people in society, watches a musical show in the theater. At the end of the show, a lady announces that the production is dedicated to Merrick and the crowd receives the news with a standing ovation. What is interesting about this scene is from a Bakhtinian point of view, the scene illustrates how the Other holds power, even if momentarily, within the carnivalesque space. Yet, it may also be argued that the standing ovation dedicated to Merrick perpetuates his position as pawn of society. He is merely a source of entertainment feeding society's fascination.
The movie ends with Merrick taking his own life. But why? Is it because as Other, like women, Merrick has no other solution but to end life? That the only way he can ever have true agency is to take his own life.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 12:41 PM
Thursday, April 29, 2010
In defining Orientalism, Edward Said claims that "[t]he Orient was almost a European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, remarkable experiences" (1991). He further claims that "the imaginative examination of things Oriental was based more or less exclusively upon a sovereign Western consciousness out of whose unchallenged centrality an Oriental world emerged, first according to general ideas about who or what was an Oriental, then according to a detailed logic governed not simply by empirical reality but by a battery of desires, repressions, investments, and projection" (Said 1996). Essentially, what Said illuminates is that Orientalism is a theory and practice that perpetuates and identifies Western culture as hegemonic, and Orientalism is a means to iterate "the idea of European identity as a superior one in comparison with all the non-European peoples and cultures" (Said 1995). In short, Orientalism imposes a definition on non-Europeans, identifying them as inferior to Westerners.
In Woman Warrior, the effects of Orientalism, its imbeddedness in Western identity creates a conflict of identity for Maxine Hong Kingston. Kingston, a Chinese-American who grew up with a traditional Chinese mother, is confused about her Chinese identity. Kingston identifies being Chinese according to the Orientalist view of non-Westerners, admitting "I knew the silence had to do with being Chinese" (Kingston 166). She believes that "[Chinese] voices were too soft or nonexistent," reiterating a lack of voice. The irony in Kingston's situation is the powerful presence of her mother. That is, Kingston's mother, Brave Orchid, is a strong, determined woman who defies the definition of Chinese women as meek and silent. A Chinese woman who grew up in rural China, Brave Orchid exemplifies being Chinese and being woman as characteristic of power and determination, of overcoming obstacles and being matriarch. In the relationship between Kingston's mother and father, the mother seems to hold authority, making decisions for the family; the matriarch of the tribe.
How ironic that Kingston does not take after her mother. As a teenage girl, instead of looking up to her mother as an example to follow, she, instead, becomes inculcated with the Westernized view of Chinese girls. This inculcation of Western ideals is apparent as Kingston confesses, "Normal Chinese women's voices are strong and bossy. We American-Chinese girls had to whisper to make ourselves American-feminine. . .We invented an American-feminine speaking personality" (Kingston 172). Kingston exposes how femininity and definitions are societal constructs perpetuated by those who believe in them. This construction of definition is very much apparent in the Western view of Orientals, deeming them as Other, incapable, silent and without power.
Kingston, Maxine Hong. The Woman Warrior. New York: Vintage International, 1989. Print.
Said, Edward. Orientalism. The Norton Anthology: Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch.
New York: W.W.Norton, 2001. 1986-2011. Print.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 2:36 PM
Friday, April 23, 2010
Final Paper Draft: The Indefinable Self and the Struggle for Meaning in Shirley Jackson’s *The Haunting of Hill House*
In his theory of individuals as homo-hermeneuts, Max Weber posits that “[l]ife should not be an ensemble of inconsistent beliefs and unconnected decisions and actions; rather, each life in its totality should unfold from the ‘inner core’ of the individual” (Chowers 70). The self, which Weber calls personality, is authored by an individual through struggling with and against external and internal forces. Only through struggle can an individual author meaning, taking the external and internal influences as parts of the continuous story of life. Indeed, life is a struggle and defining the self is an even bigger struggle, especially for women for whom an inner core seems non-existent. That is, to be woman is to be subject and object of a socially constructed ideal that is, at best, limited. This socially constructed image is imposed on women upon birth, before a time when, what Weber calls an ‘inner core’ has even had a chance to develop. Even if an inner core does emerge, it is already influenced, imbedded and manipulated with social and cultural ideals. Furthermore, the social imposition on and manipulation of women is perpetuated by the female examples that surround them; examples that have long been molded as the social ideal.
In their work The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar illustrate how the social and patriarchal dichotomous construct of woman, as either the ideal angel or inconstant monster, is the cause of anxiety among women who are trying to find definition. Specifically, Gilbert and Gubar talk about the anxiety in female authorship because “for the female artist the essential process of self-definition is complicated by all those patriarchal definitions that intervene between herself and herself” (813). These feminist scholars claim that to liberate woman, especially the woman author, “women must kill the aesthetic ideal” and “kill the angel’s necessary opposite and double, the ‘monster’ in the house” (Gilbert and Gubar 812). In other words, Gilbert and Gubar emphasize that, yes, life is a struggle, but for women, the struggle is specifically to eradicate the social construction of womanhood and rewrite a new definition of woman; to author a new story of womanhood. The struggle of being woman and finding meaning in the female self is the central conflict for Eleanor Vance, the female protagonist in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. Liberated from the oppressive influence of her mother and sister, Eleanor embarks on a journey towards recreating a self. Optimistic about her endeavor, Eleanor imagines recreation as an easy and even, romantic process. However, haunted by the ideals imposed by her mother, ideals reiterated by the history of Hill House, Eleanor discovers that authoring a self means to struggle against those ideals that have become core of her being. Essentially, the struggle that Eleanor encounters in The Haunting of Hill House is the female struggle that Gilbert and Gubar delineate in In the Madwoman in the Attic. Like Gilbert and Gubar’s definition of the anxiety of female authorship, the anxiety that haunts Eleanor is caused by the dichotomous image of woman that must be overcome in order to author a life story. To fail in the struggle is to lose authorship, and for Eleanor, this means to metaphorically and literally be killed.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 11:12 PM
Thursday, April 22, 2010
we all are
women in chains
writhing and writing
In this video, Philip Scott Johnson compiles several different images of women in art; images that come from artworks spanning 500 years. Johnson illustrates how art forms change but the image does not. The illustrations of women in Johnson's montage are subtly similar with each other, either portraying woman as the angelic ideal or sinister, wicked, bordering, if not, monstrous. While the dichotomy of angel and monster is subtle, it is nevertheless evident. What is even more problematic is that while the image of woman in the video is dichotomous, it is also ambiguous which seems to illuminate the idea that woman is both angel and monster, ideal and wicked, impossible to tell apart.
This seemingly unchanging image of woman as either angel or monster, or both, is what, as Gilbert and Gubar claims, limits women writers. In The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar identify the anxiety of authorship and authority that women authors experience as rooting from the absence of appropriate female models in literary tradition to emulate. They claim that "a woman writer must examine, assimilate, and transcend the extreme images of 'angel' and 'monster' which male authors have generated for her" (Gilbert and Gubar 812). But transcending the static image is a difficult, almost impossible task, especially since the construction of woman and womanhood is perpetuated by the dominant majority of society. To rebel against the construction is to condemn the self as the absolute Other because "[w]hat [woman's] history suggests is that in patriarchal culture, female speech and female 'presumption' - that is, angry revolt against male domination - are inextricably linked and inevitably daemonic" (Gilbert and Gubar 823). Essentially, women who revolt against the constructed image of woman, in the eyes of patriarchal society, is merely to emphasize the monstrous side to her.
What choice, then, do women have? How can they change the limitations imposed upon them? How can the image be changed to something more dynamic and encompassing where women are more than angels and monsters? How can woman change the definition that has imprisoned her even today?
Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic. Literary Theory: An Anthology.
Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 812-825. Print.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 2:30 PM
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Like Michelangelo's The Last Judgment, Sinclair's The Jungle is a collage of bodies that are bent, muscled, pained, stretched, writhing. However, while Michelangelo's purpose is to artfully recreate a biblical moment, Sinclair aims to illustrate the plight of the stockyard workers of Chicago. With descriptions of working bodies drenched in animal blood and remains, poisonous fertilizers and filth, Sinclair evokes a picture of not only the working conditions of the Chicago meatpacking industry in the early 20th century, but also paints the living conditions of the workers who literally work themselves to the bone.
Following the story of Jurgis, the novel's protagonist, the narrative illuminates the corrupted power of capitalism and how "survival of the fittest" is law in the stockyards. As the novel describes the abominable working and living conditions of the stockyard workers, it too reveals the sad truth that the only value a working man or woman has is their bodies. In this sense, capital is not only found in monetary value but is also found in a body's physicality. The body is a medium of exchange, measurable and dispensable, valuable only to the extent that it can perform work. In other words, the body has market value. It can be sold in different ways. The sad thing is that along with the body comes the soul.
Observe the story of Jurgis who in the beginning, with his "mighty shoulders and giant hands," easily found work (Sinclair 6). Jurgis who "could take up a two-hundred-and-fifty-pound quarter of beef and carry it into a car without a stagger, or even a thought" exemplifies the body with great value and capable of work (Sinclair 6). That is, Jurgis's value as a worker is not measured by his competency or his eagerness to work but rather, the ability and capability that his muscular form represents. Jurgis's body represents a body primed for production. It is a body able to effectively produce manual labor. Hence, Jurgis's value is not derived from his character as a person but rather is derived through the productive capability his body represents.
Because the body is the medium that dictates the worker's productivity, it also indicates when the worker has no value. Such was the case for Jurgis who, after being imprisoned and taken advantage by the capitalist system, loses value and capital when his muscles wane. Indeed, Jurgis realizes how "the world of civilization" was "a world in which nothing counted but brutal might, an order devised by those who possessed it for the subjugation of those who did not" (Sinclair 556). In other words, if a man is not part of the capitalistic power then his value in society is determined by his physicality for it is the only medium of exchange he possesses.
Essentially, The Jungle illustrates the dehumanization of men and women whose only real value in the capitalistic world is the economic productivity of their physical being. Without money, power and knowledge, they are economic objects treated and identified as cogs in the capitalist machine.
Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle. 1906. BBeB Book.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 8:00 PM
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I've seen this movie many times and each time, I ask the same question: What would motivate you if you were the last man on earth? I've always wondered what motivates Vincent Price's character to keep on, toiling during the day ridding the remains of the city of zombies and enduring the long night under attack by the undead. In a sense, why live on when there seems to be nothing left to live for?
In The German Ideology, Karl Marx posits that "[a]s individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production" (Marx 653). Essentially, Marx argues that not only is a man's life measured according to his production as a citizen but that in the process of producing he is also creating his life. That production means life is ongoing seems to be implicit in The Last Man on Earth. Vincent Price's character keeps producing life, even when all of the city seems dead, as he actively moves around the city. The last man on earth goes about his daily routines because to stop does not only mean to surrender to the undead but also, to stop means a life that meant nothing.
What is perhaps, more interesting is the end of the movie. The last man on earth is killed by other living beings who have assumed that he is one of the undead. These beings have not only found a cure against the zombie disease, but that cure is a vaccine that the last man on earth himself have been working on. That is, someone else has found a cure and the last man on earth has failed his societal purpose. Thus, he is killed off in the end because his failure marks him as unproductive; he is like the zombies who have no function in society, no production to mark them as living. How appropriate that other living beings who did not witness the last man on earth's activity and productivity should be the ones to kill him. After all, in their eyes, he is not a producing man and his life is worth nothing.
Marx, Karl. The German Ideology. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Rivkin and Ryan.
2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 653-658. Print.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 1:48 PM
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Lyotard defines postmodernism as "incredulity toward metanarratives" (356). He explains that from the postmodern view "[t]he grand narrative has lost it credibility" (359). According to Lyotard, "[t]he social subject itself seems to dissolve in this dissemination of language games. The social bond is linguistic, but is not woven with a single thread. It is a fabric formed by the intersection of at least two (and in reality an indeterminate number) of language games, obeying different rules" (360). Essentially, Lyotard describes the condition of language, within postmodern perspective, as dynamic, mutable and malleable. Lyotard also expresses that intertextuality is part of the postmodern condition and that it is a concept that exposes the malleability of language because postmodernism's master assumption is that everything is dialogic and thus, language achieves meaning (if meaning is even possible) through playful intertextual relationships.
In Equus, Shaffer illustrates how language games are played. With an intertextual reference to the Bible, Shaffer executes a revision of biblical language and ideology through its perversion by the character Alan Strang. Alan creates his own religion worshiping a horse god he names Equus. While there is a seemingly pagan implication in this god, the rituals Alan dedicates to Equus is Judeo-Christian based. This is specifically evident in the language of the worship as Alan recites the genealogy of Equus ending with the statement "Behold - I give you Equus, my only begotten son!" (Shaffer 46). This statement is reminiscent of, if not imitates, John 3:16 in the Bible. Alan even imitates the rites of the Last Supper before riding out on "Equus." What Alan essentially exemplifies is the conflation of the Christian religion his mother taught him with his own affinity and fascination for horses. More importantly, however, Alan's rewriting of biblical language illustrates how anything based on language, especially narratives like religion, are easily manipulated and cannot be viewed as completely credible. Moreover, the intertextuality exemplified by Alan's religion with Christianity shows how meaning is dialogic because for readers and audiences like us, we understand Alan's rites as it refers to the Christian Bible and our knowledge of that language. That is, Alan's perverted religion is only meaningful to the extent that we can decipher it through its play with biblical language. Simultaneously, Alan's religion as a means to question the dominance of Christianity becomes obvious as we recognize how Christian rites are perverted.
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. The PostModern Condition. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Rivkin and
Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 355-364. Print.
Shaffer, Peter. Equus. 1973. New York: Scribner, 2005. Print.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 10:12 PM
Thursday, March 18, 2010
This video deplores the current popularity of plastic surgery among South Korean women. Identifying the media and American influence as the roots of the problem, the video illustrates how these entities have created a culture of women obsessed with beauty and perfection. The irony is that the video implies that this obsession with beauty as a source of power for women is a current phenomenon, a modern condition. But haven't society always been obsessed with beauty? Hasn't beauty as a source of power for women been condemned by feminism all along?
I argue that the problem is not just the obsession with beauty or beauty as a means for women to advance in society. Rather, one of the problems with the popularity and accessibility of plastic surgery is the manipulation of society's heterogeneity into homogeneity. With the current advancements in science, it has become easier to make bodily and physical transformations that use to be a dream. Indeed, nowadays it is such an easy task to change one's appearance: becoming blonde one day, brunette the next; having blue eyes and then having brown. In the case of Asian women, to become Westernized, with folds in their eyes, reshaped cheekbones and noses, and plumped lip,s is as easy as making a doctor's appointment.
Perhaps, the desire to look like a certain somebody is rooted in society's belief that "heterogeneous existence can be represented as something other" (Bataille 276). In his discussion on heterology, Bataille evinces how "the heterogeneous world includes everything resulting from unproductive expenditure (sacred thing themselves form part of this whole). This consists of everything rejected by homogeneous society as waste or as superior transcendent value" (276). Essentially, Bataille illustrates how society functions within notions of homogeneity and those that transgress homogenic definitions are considered others, rejected and excreted. Hence, homogeneous society desires to transform and manipulate the other into something closer to the rest, to assimilate the heterogeneous into the homogeneous.
However, in reality, the world is diverse and everyone is heterogeneous. Bataille states that "[a]bove all, heterology is opposed to any homogeneous representation of the world, in other words, to any philosophical system" because "[t]he goal of such representation is always the deprivation of our universe's sources of excitation and the development of a servile human species, fit only for the fabrication, rational consumption, and conservation of products" (Bataille 274-275). In this sense, what Bataille describes is the postmodern condition and that condition's "incredulity toward metanarratives" (Lyotard 356). That is, there is no one way to view the world nor is there one way that the world should function. The postmodern condition is one that celebrates difference embracing Bakhtin's philosophy that difference represents potentiality. In his work on the theory of the carnivalesque, Bakhtin illuminates that the carnivalesque body in all its protusions and excess represents human potential, the potential of the self to always become; that the self like the carnivalesque is a site of becoming, of influx. Like Bakhtin, Bataille emphasizes human-ness and the human condition as always of difference.
How ironic that current ideology is often thought of as postmodern, and yet society seems trapped in homogeneous philosophy. At least, that is what the popularity of plastic surgery and the desire to be "Westernized" imply; that society desires to look the same, be the same, and think the same. That is, the popularity of the desire to transform the body through plastic surgery shows society's compulsion to reject difference.
As something to think about, here is a glimpse of the nightmare society might soon fulfill.
Bataille, Georges. "Heterology." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.
2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 273-277. Print.
Lyotard, Jean-Francois. "The Postmodern Condition." Literary Theory:An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin
and Michael Ryan. 2nd ed. Malden: Blackwell, 2004. 355-364. Print.
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 8:09 PM
Posted by Margeaux Gamboa-Wong at 2:11 PM